It’s no secret that I love sports. It should then be no surprise that when the US Open is in town, I do go nuts in the $$$$ spending department — those four dollar signs represents roughly how much I set aside at the beginning of the year to spend in Flushing Meadows.
This month, I took my tennis buddy to a day session at the Open, the Round of 16. We bought tickets for Arthur Ashe but really only spent one (really long) match there. Truth of the matter is, there’s so many things going on during the US Open, for anyone going there for the first time, it’s completely overwhelming. There’s a little bit of something for everyone:
- The Drinking Buddy: Food and Drinks
- The Fan Girl: European Men (Changing Shirts)
- The Sports Fan: Top Notch Talent
- The Tight Purse String: Free Top Notch Talent
I’ve gone to the open every year since 2010 and have been each of the personalities, usually multiple at a time. Happy to say I’m comfortable enough to not be entirely #4, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped searching for value tickets while spending my four dollar signs. Let’s start with the first one, one that is near and dear to my stomach. Oh right, you have to get there first. This is solely for individuals who intend to take public transportation because, even if I had a car, I would NEVER drive and park by an area that intends to have at least 25,000 visitors a day, nor would my inner Tight Purse String allow me to cab from lower Manhattan to Queens.
Hey you Tight Purse String folks, the subway will only cost you $2.75 each way. If you’re reading this in 2017, it’s $3.00. Regardless, that’s a $5 to $6 travel fare, round trip, to get to the Open. From Manhattan, always budget 90 minutes. Why? Because the only subway that goes there is the 7, and the 7 is usually running local, being fixed, or running late, especially on weekends. If you’re willing to spend $4.25 each way, $7 if you include the subway to Penn Station, then you can take the LIRR from Penn Station to Mets-Willets Point. That reduces the trip to 18 min from roughly an hour (minus delays). There are set times, for the LIRR, and the train runs every half hour, so if you miss it, you’re missing a set. Other than that, no real disadvantage, except maybe the $8. That’s 80% of your beer cost at the Open.
Oh wait, one sec, the drinking buddy wants to know what the heck is there to do at the US Open and the fangirl wants to know who is there to see?
The Drinking Buddy
Being sponsored by Heineken, Moet, Grey Goose, Jacob’s Creek, etc, the US Open offers multiple means for you day drinkers out there. And, with a food village that has options for all types of diets, your drunk hunger will always be taken care of. There’s a great variety too: with food sponsors ranging from Momofuko, Fresh Farm to Table, and Ben & Jerry’s. You also have your stadium staples of italian sausage, burgers, chicken tenders, and for you health nuts, salads and other rabbit food.
For alcohol(ics), you’ve got your:
- Beers & Healthy-ish Beers (Heineken & Heineken Light)
- Wine (Jacob’s Creek)
- Standard cocktail drinks (mojitos, gin & tonic)
- Fancy Champagne (Moet)
- Fancy Cocktail and a souvenir cup (Honey Deuce)
One simply needs to understand a simple fact: the grounds to the Open will overcharge you for these drinks. But, where else can you act classy by popping open some Moet champagne while watching some hot European guys duke it out? Speaking of hot European guys…
Europeans are just better at certain things than Americans. To name a few off the top of my head:
- Soccer, oops, football
- Speaking more than one language
And, of course, looking good on the tennis court. The US Open takes place in the middle of New York’s summer. That, ladies (and gentlemen), means hot sun, humidity, and lots of sweating. Good thing Nike and other outfit sponsors provide 2-3 shirts for each player, in case they get too drenched in sweat and need to literally change during a changeover.
And, due to the requirement of top tier tennis players to be nimble and agile on the court, they’ve got very well toned legs and finely trained glutes to achieve this level of dexterity. Honestly, pictures are worth a thousand words (and drools).
The Sports Fan
High octane rallies, quick feet and smooth sliding, while being able to serve faster than you’re legally allowed to drive, even on the second attempt. This is what you get from men’s and women’s matches at the Open. The women’s game has evolved to become a more physical game, a much more challenging field for younger players to navigate. Just look at who’s #1 in the world. Women in their 30s are dominating the sport. Kerber’s groundstrokes can go in any direction. Wozniacki’s marathon training has certainly helped increase her ability to chase after any ball, and then go smoothly into a strong lunge to whack a backhand past her opponent. And there’s Serena. I want to see her go toe to toe with a top ranked male player. She would definitely give them a run for their money, serving at over 120 mph, strong groundstrokes that may make you want to run the other way. Her scream carries the substance that’s in her game, decorated by her 22 grand slams.
The men’s side is as talented as it could be. You have the best movers and returners that the game has seen since 1968 (the start of the Open Era). Djokovic’s ankles are inhuman, as far as I’m concerned, with the way they help him stretch and reach sharp angled shots. Andy Murray has some of the strongest backhand returns ever seen, pounding the courts at high pace. And, for the fan girl, he’s super cut. Speaking of super cut, Nadal’s back, Nadal’s (famous) ass, and Nadal’s helicopter swing that results in a deadly topspinning forehand that bounces as high as you are tall. Wawrinka with his smooth yet powerful single handed backhand. Monfils and his delightful style as he hurdles, lunges, and chases after balls, all while smiling. Nishikori returning everything that comes his way, with that unique samurai stance.
I obviously saved the best for last. The Swiss Maestro may be older, but also wiser. His game evolves, going from serve and volley to baseline elegance, and to what I can only describe as some funky mix of the two, with an occasional, “I’m bored, let’s see how many tweeners, backhand/forehand made up shots I can make.” He’s effortless in displaying his grace and talent on court. Just watch:
The Tight Purse String
So your buddies, the drinker, the crazy fangirl, and the obsessed sports enthusiast have peer pressured you into traveling to Queens to watch some tennis tournament for 13 goddamn hours. WTF. And it’s not yet Week 1 of the NFL so you can’t use football as your excuse to not go. What do you do?
The US Open is probably one of the cheaper sports extravaganzas one can partake in in NYC. Rated on a scale of “Ohhhh Freebie!” to “Boy you ain’t nothin’ but a Gold Digger”, here’s what’ve available to you in the city:
I’m not your casual sportsfan, so I have no problems saving up cash to splurge for potentially watching history being made. For example, I spent $700 last year for the Federer/Djokovic final, hoping to see #18 for Mr. Fed. This year? I watched his fellow Swiss, Stan Wawrinka, defeat Djoko for free, in the comforts of my living room.
The Tight Purse String should always buy grounds tickets last minute for week 1. You have full activity across all of the side courts at the Open, which are free for anyone who entered with a grounds pass. Grounds passes should also be the cheapest tickets available, as they do not guarantee seating. All grounds pass holders may sit in general admissions sections of all courts, except Arthur Ashe, the main stadium, on a first come, first serve basis. Ashe requires a ticket, “Ashe Ticket” that has assigned seating.
Included in the grounds tickets are general admissions areas for the Grand Stand and Louis Armstrong Stadium. Top 20 players, both men and women, typically play in 3 courts: Ashe, Louis Armstrong, or Grand Stand. However, due to the large playing field at the start of the tournament, you could easily stumble upon a Tsonga match in Court 6. Just make sure you view the daily schedules first, or else you’ll end up in a horrendously long line while baking under the sun.
Also free? Watching top tier players practice. The practice courts display daily schedules for when you can see Nadal hit with his coach or Serena blast forehands and backhands back to her male hitting partners. That’s right, this girl is so strong, she practices with dudes.
There’s also random giveaways from the sponsors. My history of useless free gifts collected from the open include:
- ESPN iPhone cover
- ESPN water bag
- Chase frat-bro sunglasses
- 3-4 Amex Radios for listening to US open commentary
- Tennis balls hit over the fence by the pros (There was a red mark on the ball, I think it’s a Wilson racquet, which means there’s a 1% chance it was Federer!)
Strategy is key when figuring out a gameplan to maximize a day at the Open. Finding the right time to leave matches to view events on the other side of the grounds is fairly important because the last thing anyone wants is to pay a decent sum of money to wait in line again. And, with the exception of Ashe, there’s really no such thing as a bad seat in any of the courts. For Arthur Ashe, I would recommend paying for loge level seats. Don’t know about most folks, but when I watch sports, I prefer to be able to see the ball. And, for a tennis event, be able to see Federer’s hair as he hits his forehands.
To end this post, here’s what I did for 13 hours at the US Open this year. I did shell out for good seats, paying $360 or so for the combo of daytime and nighttime sessions in Arthur Ashe, loge seating.
- 4 matches seen (player seed): Monfils(10)/Baghdatis, Tsonga(9)/Sock(26), Nadal(4)/Pouille(24), Kerber(2)/Kvitova(14), Djokovic(1)/Edmund
- Drank Heineken, Honey Deuce, and a skim latte
- Grilled Chicken Sandwich and Lobster/Shrimp Seafood Salad
- Notable Pokemon caught: Bulbasaur, Dratini, Eevee, Venomoth, with sightings of Charmander, Squirtle, and Onix
Sample schedule for those who like to plan things out:
Oh, and one more for the Fangirl…Nadal 2016: